Celebrity painter Bob Ross could speed- paint a landscape in 30 minutes for his ”The Joy of Painting” television series.This rapidity was achieved primarily through a modular approach implemented with a variant of the ”wet on wet” technique. But, could the iconic Ross or any painter attain 180 completed works per week for 10 years? Operations researchers from China’s ministry of ” Cultural Industries” scrutinized the potential for speed- painting and confirmed the hypothesis.
Chinese painters, scrambling like hamsters on a treadmill, can complete masterpiece replicas more economically than a digital Giclee or ink-jet printer. To painting entrepreneurs in China, art is evaluated by how many square feet of canvas per day can be painted much as the agronomist calculates crop yield per hectare.
Twenty Thousand Van Gogh’s is the number of copy paintings claimed by Zhang Libing, a home based artist from Dafen. He is 26 years old and earns $200 a month plus room and board.
Flesh and Blood Giclees like Huang Yihong are expected to complete 30 paintings per day and his cost to the employer is only ten dollars per day. For many of China’s art college graduates it resembles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities: ”It was the best of times it was the worst of times”… and internet marketing of Chinese art is a central catalyst for this assembly line mentality. However, the power of broadband will inevitably lead to fragmentation and segmentation in quality and originality of art in the future.
Giclee printing is an integral part of the limited edition art re-sell market. It is ink-jet fine art digital printing. The image is scanned and digitally enhanced on a computer to match the original art. It is demanding in terms of applying photoshop to capture all the tonalities, hues and micro-details of the original, according to Alan Epstein of Front Range Giclee. Epstein served as lead consultant to Canson-Talens on their product development of digital art papers. The printing materials used by Front Range such as Arches watercolor paper are $18 retail for a 300 lb weight 22×30 inch format. Quality Fredrix cotton printable canvas is also expensive since this substrate requires a surface treatment to ensure ink adhesion and definition.
A sixty-four inch Epson ink-jet can be bought for $10K today, but the real cost is in the use of the software, numerization, and the inks in particular. Printer guarantees are generally null and void if generic ink has been used in OEM printers. A 950 ml Epson ink is $240. Stock analysts claim printer ink is the number one profit generator at Hewlett-Packard.
As Hamlet the painter once remarked:
”To Giclee or not to giclee, that is the question. Which is nobler in the mind to offer ?…”
( Special thanks to Mike Lewis for his assistance on this post )